Friday, June 10, 2011

she's painting rainbows

she's painting rainbows
from tins of brilliant powdered
pigments piled in peaks

Colors, colors, colors! As an artist, I want to buy everything this vendor has on her table at the Pisac feria. I also want to know what they're made of. Where on Earth do they get that electric blue? These pigments are not synthetic, but I can't think of any rocks that are that color. The crimson red I do know about. It's made from cochineal, an insect native to South America that lives on cacti. The insect produces carminic acid as a defense against predators. Carminic acid can be extracted from the insect's body and mixed with calcium salts to make carmine dye. The bright red dye has long been used for coloring fabrics and was an important export during the colonial period. Its use declined with the invention of synthetic dyes, but recently there has been an increased demand for natural dyes and Peru is now the largest exporter. This brilliant carmine color is frequently used in the traditional clothing of Peru, from hats to ponchos, k'eperinas, shirts and skirts.

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